Defoe was a young child in 1665. What's best about A Journal of the Plague Year is the lengths to which Defoe goes to cause the reader to believe that this is in fact a journal and not a novel. His narrator repeatedly reports sets of death statistics, analyzing them for evidence that cases of the plague are being hidden. He scrupulously avows that parts of the narrative are true and supports them with references and citations; other parts are equally scrupulously identified as unsubstantiated or hearsay. The narrator admits that he is not publishing his religious reflections on the plague as these would be of no interest to the reader. The style is discursive and matter of fact. The overall effect is of reportage, not fiction.The reader may indeed breath a sigh of relief that the narrator keeps his theological musings from these pages, heavily interlarded as they already are with Defoe's usual moral philosophizing. Though not out of place for the time or the content of the novel, it is still wearing. The Penguin edition has an introduction by Anthony Burgess that puts these sermons into context and renders them tolerable.As a bubonic plague aficionado, I appreciated Defoe's detailed descriptions of the signs of the plague and the practices associated with the government's efforts to contain it. Defoe makes a number of excellent observations about the futility and damaging effects of quarantine, and though the plague and HIV spread differently, the attribution of divine and social meanings to a disease resonate even today.